How a Church Altered My Beliefs By Showering Me in Love

How a Church Altered My Beliefs By Showering Me in Love September 13, 2018
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Four years ago everything in my life fell apart at once. Within the span of a few short months, my family got pummeled with bad news. My mother-in-law received a terminal cancer diagnosis. Next, my uncle passed away from a long battle with vascular disease. Finally, my son’s health continued to decline with no known origin. I felt helpless, powerless, and overwhelmed by the stress and sadness. A friend suggested I find a church to attend and encouraged me that faith would help me through the trauma. I searched for a church, and I found one I felt would meet my needs. The first time I attended, volunteers and staffed bombarded me with love and kindness. The attention and love made me feel intoxicated and happy. What I didn’t know then but know now was I got love-bombed, and the technique altered my thoughts.

In the early months at the church, volunteers and staff went out of their way to help me. After my first service, I got a letter in the mail thanking me for attending. The envelope included a gift card for free coffee. I remember feeling grateful that a church went out of their way to welcome new members.

Anytime I had questions; there was always someone at the church available to help me. They listened with attentive ears. I was encouraged to get involved with the church. The staff said that there were members of the church looking for friendship. They urged me to consider finding a community in their church. After years of being alone and without friends, the invitation was too good to pass up.

Without a ton of thinking, I dove right into the church and community. The intoxication I felt from the congregation made me want to be there all the time. Even though I struggled with some of the sermons or beliefs of the church, I wanted the community they offered me.

For my entire life, I had always been a very liberal, progressive, and open-minded person. I believed in helping others, and I fought for equality for all people. My core beliefs were rooted in all people having the same access and rights to life. Additionally, I believed firmly in science and education. I knew this philosophy might be at war with the world of Christianity.

Early on I tried hard to push aside the messages I heard in the sermons or from members that conflicted with my values. The pastor preached the Biblical philosophy of marriage. All of our sermons revolved around marriage between only men and women.

During these sermons, I felt conflicted and frustrated. No part of me believed love was contingent on gender or sex. I thought marriage should exist between two consenting adults.

The pastor preached a lot about marriage relationships. He believed that the man of the family was in charge of the leadership of the family. I grew up in a family where my parents carried equal ranks in their marriage. My family didn’t have a patriarchial make-up. When I married my husband, we had the same kind of relationship. I never looked at my husband to be my leader.

Even though the messages conflicted with my values, I pushed it all away because of the love I felt. No matter what I went through emotionally, there was always someone that could be there for me. I received invitations to parties, playdates, and coffee outings with members. They invited me to yoga, exercise classes, or to go running. During this time, I never felt alone.

Then I started hearing members talk about vaccines. Many of them appeared to be very against modern medicine. Women exchanged homemade remedies to manage illness. Several of them shared information with me about essential oils, elderberry syrup, bone broth, and breathing techniques to reduce “symptoms.”

People at church distrusted the government. Members called politics and issues outside of church “Of this World.” Many lived for the world of Jesus. The world outside of Christ was outside of their values.

My congregation spent most of their time living for their next life that they sacrificed their happiness. At church, the staff told us that personal preferences were selfish. They encouraged us to set aside our preferences and desires for the greater good of the church. Everything we did as a congregation was designed to recruit new members. Services were made to entice and draw in people afraid of attending church. We were instructed to be kind, friendly, and helpful to any first-time guests that visit.

Quickly, I learned many of the people I called friends didn’t vaccinate their children. Many didn’t send their children to public schools. Several parents didn’t trust doctors. We heard sermons that told us college education didn’t matter.

Soon I found myself doubting critical beliefs I had in science and public school. I started thinking about homeschooling my son. Then I started learning about essential oils and other homemade “cures” to treat my families ailments. I even tried to ditch my pharmaceutical medications and manage my mental health issues on my own.

After three years entrenched in the conservative mindset, I remember looking at the person I had become. In three years, I started doubting science, believed men should be leaders of women, distrusted public schools, and only had friends within the church.

The love-bombing at the beginning was a high I chased for three years. I wanted that love. To achieve that love, I set aside my values. When I woke up one morning, I realized I hated the person I had become.

I needed to sever my connection to the church. However, I knew this meant I had to let go of all of my friendships. The hardest part was realizing that to walk away; I had to walk away from a community.

For months I agonized about leaving the community that made me feel loved. I didn’t want to be alone again.

But I realized I couldn’t be in a community that was contrary to everything I valued in life.

Then one day I had enough. There wasn’t a dramatic reason for my departure. I couldn’t live a lie anymore. I wasn’t a person that believed gay people were sinners. Science, public education, and gender equality were issues too crucial for me to ignore. When I decided to leave, I walked away and tried not to look back.

After leaving my mind felt less conflicted. I didn’t have to worry about how my views lived in contrast to the Bible. I no longer spent nights awake worrying that I couldn’t believe in teachings from the Bible. No, leaving gave my mind freedom I needed to be happy.

I’ve learned now that the way the church recruited me is a tactic of mind-control that is pervasive in the Christian faith. The technique of love-bombing is used to entice and overwhelm new members with love attention. Through the attention and love, new members believe and trust the group. How could a group be dangerous if they are so kind?

When the attention and affection wore off for me, I realized that my mind had been altered. The intoxicating love I felt made unwilling to see red-flags within the community. I dismissed questionable behavior by leadership because of that love.

I’m grateful I broke free from the church. I got out before any more damage could be done to my family or me.

Love-bombing is a technique used in cults and in any organization that wants to reshape your thoughts.

Beware of any organization that showers you with attention.

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  • Jennny

    Well said. I worked in a school where an inclusive head had the reputation of being accepting of local JWs and LDS, so most of them in this town sent their children to our school. It meant the child didn’t feel alone, there were maybe 10-12 other JW/LDS pupils excluded from religious assemblies and RE classes that all UK schools have. The school was also sympathetic when JWs and Mormons removed their children from school during December and xmas events. I watched some JWs lovebomb a mother at the school gate. She was newly divorced and tearful. They physically surrounded her. She went to the head and said she was now JW, but great man that he was, he got her to see the implications for her sad children, no xmas or birthdays, no presents, what would grandparents feel when told that? I was shocked by the JWs behaviour…until I realised I did exactly the same in my fundy church, made a big fuss of newcomers. Churches in the UK are declining, so getting new folk was vital for survival…I was as bad as they were.
    How did the church take your leaving?

  • TinnyWhistler

    Churches, like any organization, thrive when they meet a need in their community. This church met your need for support and love during a difficult time, so you were willing to overlook what sounds like a heck of a lot.

    Churches should have motivation to be welcoming to newcomers beyond simple “We want new people to stay” because of their mandate to be loving to other people. Theoretically, that should include being loving to LGBTQ+ people, refugees, and people they disagree with but that’s not the case for most churches in the US.

    I don’t think that being welcoming of newcomers to an organization is an inherently bad thing any more than it’s bad for, say, a family to welcome a new significant other to Thanksgiving. Love bombing as a deliberate manipulative strategy does exist and is an effective cult recruitment tactic. However, it is so effective because it’s also just normal good behavior.

    I find it unfortunate that for many people including yourself, it can sometimes be impossible to allow one’s needs to be met by an organization like a church without compromises becoming unreasonable. This is why I encourage my Christian friends to think critically about what compromises they *should* be willing to make and what compromises they *are currently* making and to vote with their feet if the two don’t line up.

  • Jim Jones

    Love-bombing is a technique used in cults and in any organization that wants to reshape your thoughts.

    Humans are wired to form groups to solve problems. After, say, a plane crash, after the immediate urge to escape, how often does everybody do their own thing without cooperating or communicating with the others?

    Five Came Back – Wikipedia

    Five Came Back is a 1939 American black-and-white melodrama from RKO Radio Pictures. In 1948 Five Came Back was remade as the Mexican film Los que volvieron and again in 1956 by producer-director Farrow as Back from Eternity.

    Much of the movie is about the group deciding how to survive and, at the end, who gets to live.

  • Jim Jones

    Matthew 25:35-40

    ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

    The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    If only they would stick to this.

  • As I was raised in a church, I didn’t grow up with love-bombing. I don’t think I have experienced it from a group, but I can imagine that it feels great – kind of like when you are early in a relationship and you send little notes and gifts to each other.

    I have warned my daughter who is starting her freshman year in college about love-bombing groups. Freshmen are often homesick, insecure, and vulnerable- prime targets for religious groups. She is a vocal feminist liberal atheist so I doubt they would get too far…..

  • I had never experienced it until I was 35!

  • It’s been a mixed bag. Some people contacted me right away and pleaded for me not to leave. Others said nothing. And others have spoken out against what I share here. I remind them this is my truth. They can’t say what I experienced wasn’t real

  • Love bombing is a part of most churches and they don’t even know it

  • Yes, we all want a group to call our own

  • TinnyWhistler

    Love bombing is a part of most groups of people, period. I can’t think of anyone who consciously refrains from being welcoming or friendly because they want to make sure that they’re not manipulating a new person into liking them.

  • Yeah, I think churches do it strategically to get new members.

  • Maine_Skeptic

    When you say you were “love bombed,” some might think you’re saying this was part of a conscious strategy on behalf of the church. I think a lot of times, the love is partially sincere, but what makes it unhealthy are the strings attached. The unspoken line is “We accept you as you are, as long as you quickly change to be just like us.”

    There are also churches where the up-front love is a bait-and switch. You see a lot of generosity until you commit to the group, and then you’re expected to make sacrifices on behalf of the church and its leadership. “To whom much is given…”

    I walked away from a controlling church myself years ago, and for similar reasons. I simply reached the point where I couldn’t stand the cognitive dissonance any more. After I left, mostly what I felt was relief. I no longer had to suspend disbelief and make excuses for the craziness.

  • it’s love bombing no matter the way you look at it. the goal is to get you to join. Then once you join – you adhere to the rules and love-bomb new members. It’s a cycle.